You pay £2MILLION for authorities’ PR and spin – including £720,000 at cashstrapped county council

County Hall, which spends nearly three quarters of a million pounds on PR
County Hall, which spends nearly three quarters of a million pounds on PR

Cashstrapped Bucks County Council spends £720,000 a year on an army of public relations gurus.

The authority, which has downgraded libraries and cut cash to daycare centres, held on to funding for 21 communications roles this year.

Last year the council spent a further £45,911 on internal and external newsletters.

Figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, form part of revelations that Vale ratepayers are spending more than £2million a year on PR roles.

Robert Oxley, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance pressure group, said: “This is an extraordinary amount of taxpayers’ money to spend on council and police 
spin doctors. Residents want better services and bobbies on the beat, not an army of press officers in return for their hard-earned council tax.

“Axing many of these non–jobs would save taxpayers’ a fortune and if the authorities are worried about their image then they should focus on delivering better services.”

Bucks County Council chief Martin Tett this week defended his authority’s mammoth spend on PR and communications.

Announcing a ‘significant reduction in the council’s communications spend’ he said: “This is a very wide definition of ‘communications’.

“The county council provides some 200 services to over 500,000 people. These range from schools and public health to marriage registration and recycling.

“We don’t produce any council magazines so we rely entirely on working with the local press, radio and television, along with new social media and occasional leaflets to make people aware of services.

“Nevertheless, we are constantly looking for economies in the way we communicate and there are significant reductions planned in the county council’s communications spend.”

At Aylesbury Vale District Council, £203,585 is spent on six communications roles.

This comes while the authority struggles to find cash for public services after having around 50 per cent of its government grant reduced.

It was also revealed this week that 11 staff in the council’s besieged planning department are to be axed, at a time when it is feared that the government could impose an unacceptable amount of new homes on the Vale.

The council also sends out the Aylesbury Vale Times to 72,000 households three times a year.

The latest edition, in November last year cost £8,377 to print, £720 to design and £7,326 to distribute.

However, the council does recoup some of the outlay in advertising revenue, which brings in £6,006.

Another big spender is Thames Valley Police which spends £515,335 on 30 communications posts.

One of the roles included under the banner of communications is the force’s museum curator.

However, the force covers a wider area than both the councils.

Bucks Healthcare also places a high priority on PR and communications.

The trust spent £189,593 on five full-time equivalent roles for staff to deal with press and internal enquiries.

It also spends £3598 on SWAN Magazine, an infrequent electronic newsletter.

Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service provides a comprehensive online incident log for journalists and answers telephone enquiries throughout the week.

The service hires just two members of staff as communications and consultation manager, and communications officer.

For data protection reasons it was unable to provide a figure on salary spending.